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Home > Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction FAQ – Part III

Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction FAQ – Part III

Mark W. McFarland, MDMark W. McFarland, DO




This is part three of a three-part FAQ providing detailed information on sacroiliac joint dysfunction which answers frequently asked questions about this condition, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, available treatment options and what you can do to prevent SI joint dysfunction.


What treatments are used for SI joint dysfunction?

Interventional Treatments

If the patient doesn’t respond to these treatments and still has pain, I will then suggest a therapeutic steroid injection into the SI joint. This injection is performed in our sterile outpatient procedure suite under live x-ray, called fluoroscopy. The patient is given an injection of numbing medication before a contrast agent is injected into the joint to assist me with the precise placement of the needle and the medication. This entire process only takes a few minutes. The patient is then taken to our waiting room to sit for 15 minutes post-procedure to make sure they have no side-effects from the steroid injections. After waiting 15 minutes, the patient is released to go home. A driver must take the patient home for their safety, due to rare, but possible numbness, weakness or dizziness that may occur after the injection.

Many patients get significant relief from therapeutic steroid SI joint injections and find that they may only need to repeat these in intervals for pain relief as needed, yearly or quarterly.

Radio Frequency Ablation is a procedure where the myelin sheath is temporarily burned off the nerve that “feeds” or enervates the SI joint. In doing so, the nerve cannot transmit pain signals to the brain as well, so pain is greatly reduced. In time, the myelin sheath will regenerate; however, when it does, the pain usually doesn’t come back as intensely.

This procedure is performed as an outpatient procedure in our sterile procedure suites by one of our Interventional Pain Management Physicians. Not all patients are candidates for this procedure, and it is not covered by all insurance companies. It is a treatment option for those patients who don’t respond to other forms of treatment and continue to have severe SI joint pain.

SI Joint Fusion is a surgical procedure that for many years was not recommended by orthopaedists because it was fraught with complications and didn’t have great outcomes for the patients who underwent the surgery. The trade-off might be less pain, but the patient might walk with a limp for the rest of their life.  Not many folks would sign up for that deal!

Recent improvements in technology have allowed the SI joint fusion implant (which is about the size of an almond) to become much more “patient-friendly” with much improved outcomes.  The joint fusion procedure can be done now under local anesthetic in a sterile procedure room. The patient will only have an inch-long incision and will be able to walk out of the clinic shortly after the fusion procedure is complete.

SI joint fusion is not for every patient and there are risks and potential complications to consider, as with all procedures.  Not all insurances will cover SI joint fusion procedures, so if you want to discuss this procedure as a treatment option, be sure to consult with your insurance company regarding coverage.

Can I prevent SI joint dysfunction?

Yes and no. You may be genetically pre-disposed to have a problem in this area or to have arthritis.  However, you can do many things to keep your body in fighting form and lessen your risk:

  • Exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stretch frequently
  • Avoid injury
  • Use proper body mechanics at work and at home
  • Get plenty of rest and quality sleep
  • Eat nutritiously – feed your body!

If you are suffering from SI joint dysfunction or any other low back issue, the Orthopaedic Spine Specialists and Interventional Pain Management Physicians at Orthopaedic and Spine Center can help you feel better.  Call 757-596-1900 or click to make an appointment.





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